‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease
about something with an uncertain outcome.’
We all have these feelings from time to time but sometimes,
for a variety of reasons, they can become harder to control.
In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of patients seeking help with anxiety, often mixed with low mood and feelings of helplessness recognisable as depression.
Research suggests that over two thirds of the estimated three million UK sufferers fail to seek treatment.
A study carried out by the British Acupuncture Council and Anxiety UK believes this could be down to a lack of understanding of the options available, especially with complementary therapies such as acupuncture. The study found that 66.5% admitted that they just ‘try and get on with things’ rather than seek help, even though 50% said the condition affected their career and relationships.
These anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorder (NICE 2007; Clinical Evidence 2007). They can be chronic and cause considerable distress and disability.
As well as emotional symptoms such as worry, disturbed sleep, irritability and poor concentration, anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, dry mouth, palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, cold hands, muscle tension and aches, trembling and twitching.
Can acupuncture help?
Chinese medicine understands ‘anxiety’ 憂 as one of the ‘five minds’ 五志. These describe mental states that enable us to navigate our environment. It describes the mental state of reflection that enables us to observe and take in our surroundings. In a healthy physical and mental state it is a component of our self-awareness that enables us to protect ourselves.
Imbalances within aspects of your physical and mental physiology can potentially lead to anxious feelings and heightened alertness, where there is no need.
Acupuncture on its own can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, providing some benefit, but when used alongside other techniques, such as CBT and counselling, the effects can be much more effective. Together these are often very effective ways to help manage anxiety (see ‘Useful links’ below).
How does acupuncture work?
Specific diagnostic techniques, such as tongue and pulse diagnosis, abdominal and channel palpation, alongside talking, are used to identify patterns of physiological disruption.
Needles are then used in specific points that stimulate and rectify your mind and body’s normal physiological function.
We also seek to understand the ‘root’ [běn] 本 cause of the disruption, to ensure that it doesn’t simply return once treatment has ceased.
- American Psychiatric Association, 2000. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed., Text Revision). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.
- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2007. Quick reference guide (amended) Anxiety: management of anxiety (panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia, and generalised anxiety disorder) in adults in primary, secondary and community care. Clinical Guideline 22 (amended) [online]. Available: http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG22/QuickRefGuide/pdf/English
- Office of National Statistics 2000. Psychiatric Morbidity among Adults living in Private Households. [online] Available:
- World Health Organization 2007. International Statistical Classification of Disease 10th revision (ICD-10) [online]. Available: http://apps.who.int/classifications/apps/icd/icd10online/